Ultimate BYOB Guide


What to Know Before You Go: Credit cards accepted, outside seating available.

Buy a Bottle At: 720-30 South Street, Philadelphia.

Dining on South Street is a hit-or-miss proposition. When the focus is on the food, the experience is, more often than not, a positive one. But then there are those places-they’ll remain nameless-that insist on focusing more on the “vibe” than on what’s coming out of the kitchen. And unless you’re a local Goth kid, or an erstwhile punk-rocker out for a night on the town, you’re probably not going to have a great time. But Alyan’s is-and you’ll have to forgive me here-an oasis in this dining desert. It’s nothing fancy, mind you, but sometimes that doesn’t really matter. Because what Alyan’s does, it does very well. The baba ghannouj was flavorful and just the right consistency. Kibbi, which are little football-shaped constructions of bulgur wheat with, as the menu describes somewhat mysteriously, “ground meats, spices, and pine nuts,” were subtly flavorful and fried to perfection. The back room is charming, and a welcome break from the craziness of the world outside. Alyan’s is proof that good food at fair prices will draw people from all over the city to the unlikeliest of dining destinations-even down to South Street.

603 S. 4th St., Philadelphia, 215.922.3553.

Sushi On The Avenue

What to Know Before You Go: Credit cards accepted, outside seating available.

Buy a Bottle At: 1318 Walnut St., Philadelphia.

With all the new sushi restaurants popping up in the city these days, it takes a truly special one to grab Philadelphians’ attention. Indeed, something on the order of New York’s Nobu would have to open up in order to make us turn our heads in unison and gaze at the uni in wonder. And while Sushi On The Avenue is not that place, it succeeds at what it sets out to do. The sushi is solid, as are the rolls. I particularly enjoyed the spicy tuna roll (a good metric for the judgment of any sushi restaurant) and a friend of mine loved the Avenue Maki, which is the same as a Philadelphia Roll but with a different name. It’s made with smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber. Personally, I prefer my lox and cream cheese on a bagel, preferably eaten alongside the Sunday newspaper, but this guy’s a bit of an aficionado, and claims it was great. To each his own, I suppose. Sushi On The Avenue really excels, however, with its atmosphere. It’s definitely one of the more date-appropriate sushi restaurants in the city, and it can’t be beat if you go there with a large group of friends.

1431 Spruce St., Philadelphia, 215.732.5585.


What to Know Before You Go: Credit cards accepted, reservations recommended.

Buy a Bottle At: 720-30 South Street, Philadelphia.

Like Django, Ava is an unexpectedly urbane little spot half a block from South Street. So don’t let the address fool you: This modern Italian gem should be a destination restaurant for everyone in the city, no matter what neighborhood you’re coming from. Chef Michael Campagna takes typical Italian dishes and applies the kind of fine-dining touches that have made Center City’s BYOBs such crowd pleasers. The beet salad is a glistening mound of roasted and cubed red and gold beats tossed with mache and deliciously piquant goat cheese. Homemade casareccie pasta is cooked perfectly al dente and tossed with a classic pesto of basil, parmesan and pine nuts. It may be a bit on the salty side from some people, but there can be no argument that its fullness of flavor is nothing short of transporting. And the veal scaloppini is one of the best in the city. The meat is topped with sweet oven-roasted tomatoes, spinach, caramelized onions and gorgeously rich fontina cheese, and kissed with aged Balsamic vinegar. Food this good is usually twice as expensive. Not that anyone’s complaining.

518 S. 3rd St., Philadelphia, 215.922.3282; www.avarestaurant.com

Butcher’s Café

What to Know Before You Go: Credit cards accepted, outside seating available.

Buy a Bottle At: 720-30 South Street, Philadelphia.
This stretch of Christian Street is turning into Philadelphia’s brunch epicenter. The Butcher’s Café is right across the street from Sabrina’s Café, and you’ll have to wait for a table at both of them if you don’t get there early enough. Eggs Benedict was a satisfying assembly of poached eggs, smoked salmon and béarnaise sauce on challah. And the fabulously named Chef Todd’s Original Stuffed Caramelized Challah French Toast tastes every bit as good as it sounds: The farmer’s cheese stuffing tastes like that wonderful cream-cheesy icing that tops carrot cakes, and the bananas pair perfectly with the vanilla bean syrup atop it all. Brunch is served until 4pm, and then the menu shifts to pricey dinner entrees like stuffed veal chops and pork tenderloin with Italian twists. A grilled shrimp salad accompanied by a poached pear, raisins and candied walnuts, and tossed in vinaigrette dressing, made for a nice, light summer meal on a recent visit. In the unspoken competition between Butcher’s and Sabrina’s, the margins are getting closer.

901 Christian St., Philadelphia, 215.925.6200.

Pastaria Restaurant

What to Know Before You Go: Credit cards accepted, reservations recommended.

Buy a Bottle At: 2807 S. Front St., Philadelphia.

I’ve never been a fan of so-called “fun” restaurants. I’m a firm believer in allowing the food to speak for itself, without any sort of distracting gimmick getting between my meal and me. But Pastaria, the beloved restaurant on 13th Street with the opera-singing wait staff, won me over. One minute I was deep in conversation with my wife, enjoying my mammoth dish of “That’s Amore!!!” (the exclamation points are actually on the menu), which is approximately 84 pounds of fettuccine topped with scallops and jumbo shrimp in a pink scampi sauce, and the next, our waitress was midway through some heartbreaking aria or another, captivating the entire restaurant. The food is reliable South Philly-style Italian, but the ebullient service and beautiful singing are why guests return time and again.

1549-47 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, 215.755.8900.

At AroundPhilly.com, we only post reviews of the restaurants at which I have a positive experience. I visit many of them, and the sub-par ones don’t make the cut. This way, you don’t waste your time reading about not-so-good restaurants when you visit the site.

Previous installments of “Aroundphilly.com Ultimate BYOB Guide.”
Click here for Week 4.
Click here for Week 3.
Click here for Week 2.
Click here for Week 1.

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